Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Kunesh Joins State and Local Officials in the City of Crete to Celebrate Earth Day

Vicki Schurman
Release Date
Apr 22, 2015

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice H. Kunesh joined state and local leaders today as they celebrated Earth Day 2015 by highlighting a multi-million investment to improve the regional wastewater treatment plant.

”It is a real honor to be here today to announce USDA Rural Development’s funding commitment of more than $13 million for a wasterwater infrastructure project that will serve more than 6000 residents; and act as a catalyst for future economic development,” Kunesh said. “The theme for Earth Day 2015 is “It’s Our Turn to Lead” and USDA total investments of $112 million in loans and grants for water and wastewater improvements projects across the nation, and $2 million in funding for more efficient energy usage demonstrate the Department’s continued leadership on environmental issues.”

During her visit, Kunesh was joined by Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley, State Senator Deb Ebke, congressional staff and USDA Rural Development State Director Maxine Moul for the Earth Day program at Crete Elementary School’s Gymnasium.  Mayor Roger Foster and the City received a plaque acknowledging the funding for the new wastewater treatment plant.

Students from from Crete Elementary School received special recognition for their  Earth Day poster and essay contest.  Winners were:  Kindergarten:  Angelica Jacinto-Tercero, Alizangela Lopez-Lima; 1st Grade:  Cyndralynn Meredith, Jennifer Sanchez-Torres; 2nd Grade:  Giselle Tellez, Ella Heusinkvelt; 3rd Grade: Ashaya Steele, Le Nelson; 4th Grade Essays: Mckenzie Steuer and Emmanuel Medina.   A groundbreaking and tree planting session concluded the Earth Day activities.

“This is a great example of our federal dollars at work in Nebraska,” said Moul. “ I am pleased to be here to thank Deputy Under Secretary Kunesh for providing the funding for this critical wastwater project, which will protect our environment and positively impact the lives of our residents for years to come.”

USDA funds will be used to build a new conventional activated sludge treatment plant and a new grit removal system.  Lift station pumps will be replaced as well as the variable frequency drive motor control center and pumps control.  Backup generators for the main lift station and treatment plant will be replaced, and sludge dewatering system and building and aerated sludge lagoon will be constructed.  A new water main will be constructed as well as a new sewer force main from the existing plant to new treatment plant site.  The existing plant will be demolished.  Monies will provide for sewer manholes, fittings, valves and other appurtenances.  These improvements will bring the wastewater system back into compliance with the requirements of the City’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

The rural residents were utilizing the original system contructed in the 1974.  In 1990 the treatment plant was upgraded with the addition of two activated sludge aeration basins, a blower/return activated sludge pumping/standby generator building and an anaerobic sludge digestion complex.  The new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit includes effluent ammonia limits and the monitoring of selenium and atrazine with which the city was out of compliance a number of times. It was determined that most components of the existing 38 year old plant had reached the end of its useful life.

USDA Water and Environmental Program Accomplishments nationwide since 2009 include:

  • More than 4,500 projects funded.
  • More than 15,700 million rural residents and businesses receiving new or improved water and waste disposal service.
  • More than 165,000 new households and businesses connected.
  • Almost $11 billion invested in new or improved infrastructure.
  • More than 1,700 counties served in all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, the Western Pacific and the Commonwealth of Perto Rico.

This Earth Day, USDA is also highlighting funding under its Energy Audits-Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant Program (EA-REDA).  This program helps increase American energy independence by increasing the the private sector  supply of renewable energy and decreasing the demand for energy  through energy efficiency improvements.  Over time, these investments can also help lower energy costs for small businesses and ag producers.

USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is Open for Business.

  • The REAP program continues to accept applications for its loan guarantee program.
  • For Fiscal Year 2015, approximately $220 million in loan guarantee authority and approximately $80 million in grants are available.
  • Applications are accepted throughout the year.
  • Funding will help small farmers, rural businesses and Ag producers reduce their energy cost.

For additional information visit to learn more about programs offered by Rural Development.  To view a list of Nebraska contact information, visit

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.  USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.